By Mike Jiggens
TIREDâ€ˆof its poa annua greens continually succumbing to winter
desiccation and summer stress, the Kamloops Golf Club in British
Columbia spent 11 months in 2009 and 2010 renovating not only its
putting surfaces but giving the 97-year-old golf course a fresh new
Second assistant Travis Olson spoke about his experiences with the project in March at the Canadian International Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show in Vancouver, calling the grow-in experience a “fun departure” from the daily routine of growing and cutting grass.
He said several newer courses in the area were going to more reliable bentgrass, and the semi-private course realized it needed to make improvements, especially with its membership numbers declining.
The cold winter winds and the hot, dry summers were a formidable one-two punch in keeping poa annua down.
Renovations began in September 2009 and were finished in August 2010. Not only were the USGA specification greens renovated, but the tees and fairways were converted to bentgrass as well. As part of the project, the course also benefited from the construction of three new ponds and 19 new bunkers as well as the installation of a new irrigation system.
“The biggest challenge we faced was our compressed project deadline,” Olson said. “We had 11 months to completely rebuild the course and open for play, so it was a race against time, and it made things very difficult.”
Grassing for the grow-in began in April 2010 and finished in June. Greens were sodded with 007 creeping bentgrass while tees and fairways were seeded with Dominant X-treme, both products of Seed Research of Oregon. Roughs were seeded with Kentucky bluegrass.
The back nine holes re-opened for play on July 1. One month later, the entire course was ready.
Olson said the project involved long hours because there was still maintenance work to be done while the growing in process took place.
One of the challenges was soil settling, he said, adding soil tapping and packing ends up becoming a rush to get everything into the ground.
“There’s no root system and, with heavy irrigation, it just washed the soil away.”
In spite of the cold winter, work continued through the season to ensure the project met its deadline.
The construction work was conducted by CTC Golf &â€ˆTurf of Edmonton. Overseeing the project was architect Ted Locke of Vancouver. The irrigation system was installed by Alberta’s Alpine Irrigation.
The economic downturn at the time the project got underway resulted in a reduced budget which led to some weak areas in the rough. Heavy irrigation during the grow-in led to some washouts and puddle formation.
The cost of construction and labour amounted to $1.5 million while construction material rung in at $1.2 million. An additional $150,000 was spent on soft costs.
Many of the approximately 440 members were anxious to resume playing once they saw grass actively growing.
“There’s a fine line you have to walk as a superintendent or as a turf manager,” Olson said. “Each day the course is closed, money is lost. Each day the course is open, turf is damaged.”
Achieving the right balance was stressful, he admitted. A workable compromise was reached by permitting play on the back nine holes on July 1 while work continued on the front nine for another month.
“Although it wasn’t completely grown in, it was ready enough for play.”
Golfers were kept off the fairways to give the young turf a chance to grow. The strategy, however, created a “double-edged sword,” Olson said.
“It helped our fairways grow in nice and lush, but along the perimeters they (golfers) created roads along the rough where members were driving their carts.”
The grow-in was also challenged by the amount of foot traffic on the young tees and approaches. Olson said the swing motion of golfers on the tee led to their spikes ripping up the young turf. The plant’s shallow root system was prone to wear early after the course re-opened for play.
Working with an experienced crew was a tremendous asset, Olson said, adding that year’s crew was the best he’s worked with in his seven years at the club.
“We did a lot of maintaining while growing. You’re doing typical golf course maintenance work in the morning and then in the afternoon you’re making repairs and tending to the grow-in.”
Crews went out each day filling sinking heads and catch basins. Olson said things were the most efficient when staff worked in zones, such as tackling three designated holes in one day.
“The more organized you are, the more efficient you’re going to be.”
As the project moved forward and turf started to become established, the easier the process became, Olson said. With less irrigation required for the growing plants, the propensity for washouts was greatly reduced.
The hot summers associated with the Kamloops area meant that two or three people had to hand-water the newly-sodded areas of the course on a regular basis to keep them alive. In addition to the greens, sod was also used in damaged areas and surrounds.
Maintaining good communications with members to keep them abreast of what was happening and explaining why they were required to follow certain procedures went a long way toward the project’s success.
The working relationship among the Kamloops staff and those of both CTC and Alpine was second to none, Olson said.
“We worked as a unit. We got efficient and were really friendly with each other.”
He said each of the involved parties traded off work with one another, with one group frequently helping the other.
Olson said he relished the opportunity to be so involved in a renovation project of such magnitude, and said he would do it all over again if given the chance.
“Every day was a new learning experience,” he said. “It was challenging and rewarding. A renovation project can help revitalize a golf course and open new opportunities.”